The Power of Manager Communications During Times of Growth and Turmoil

As a communications professional, I know that managers are the preferred source of company information.  So I’ve spent years producing “stuff” to help managers deliver the corporate message: Talking points, FAQs, videos, slide templates. Unfortunately, some managers don’t use the communication tools they’re given, thinking there’s not enough time in the day or that they can do a sufficient job without them.

The research is clear: Companies that communicate effectively achieve a 30% increase in market value.  And manager communication is proven to be one of the most impactful communication strategies among high-performing companies. Producing “stuff” that isn’t even utilized just isn’t enough.

Determined to crack the code on how best to help managers and truly build their communication competency, I engaged a cross-business team to help me research, benchmark, design and deliver a manager communications program at a $13 billion conglomerate. The program secured manager buy-in upfront, and held them accountable in the end – which research proves are critical components to successful manager communications engagement.

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We piloted this program in the financial division, at the request of its president. Within a year, more than 300 managers completed the program. After year one, engagement scores within this division exceeded that of the parent company by 20%.  Additionally, for two consecutive years after the pilot, the division achieved record-high financial results with a 30% gain in revenues.

Though I know there were many factors that contributed to that success, the president of the division – to this day – largely credits the manager communications program.  I do, too.

Just as in our time of great growth, this program proved to be equally impactful when we encountered the financial crisis of 2008.   We saw firsthand that our ability to inform and engage employees to contribute their best efforts hinged largely on the communication competency of our managers, and helped us to achieve the loftiest of goals.

Clearly, there’s a lot of buzz about helping managers to be an effective communication channel.  But experience has shown me that it’s not enough to simply give them tools like talking points and videos.  In order to truly improve those day-to-day conversations between managers and their employees, one needs to help managers understand and own their communication responsibilities.  It also helps (substantially) to provide feedback on their current performance, and then give them guidance and accountability for improvement.  It takes time – participation in a one-day training program doesn’t achieve the goal – but the payback on a more robust approach is significant returns and sustainable results!